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Causes of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

2-minute read

As with many personality disorders, the exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is unknown. It is probably a mixture of genes, early childhood experiences and psychological factors.

Early childhood risk factors include:

  • insensitive parenting
  • over-praising and excessive pampering - when parents focus intensely on a particular talent or the physical appearance of their child as a result of their own self-esteem issues
  • unpredictable or negligent care
  • excessive criticism
  • abuse
  • trauma
  • extremely high expectations

Other possible factors include:

  • abnormalities in the genes that affect the connection between the brain and behaviour
  • being over-sensitive

Although there is no one answer to the question of what causes NPD, professionals agree that the sooner treatment begins, the better a person's chance for an improved quality of life.

Where to get help

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 187 263.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018


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